Another Example of Gender Pay Discrimination

You would think that if a team won the most prestigious award in their sport, they would be heaped with significant rewards, both in terms of respect and monetary payment. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case in women’s soccer.

This summer, the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) won the 2015 World Cup in Canada, but received neither respect nor fair earnings. In fact, the pay disparity between the USWNT and the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) is so vast that five members of the USWNT took legal action against the US Soccer Federation (USSF) with the Equal Employment Opportunity commission over pay discrimination.

These players are some of the best in the US and the world: Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn were all key players in the USWNT’s World Cup success.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo described the disrespect she and the other players feel and their duty to try to change the situation, stating “We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, to get paid for doing it. In this day and age, it’s about equality. It’s about equal rights. It’s about equal pay. We’re pushing for that. We believe now the time is right because we believe it’s our responsibility for women’s sports and specifically for women’s soccer to do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights. And to be treated with respect.”

USWNT Goalkeeper Hope Solo

USWNT Goalkeeper Hope Solo

The USWNT deserves the respect that Solo and the rest of the team are seeking. In Solo’s own words, “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the [men] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.” Any team with that kind of record deserves, at the very minimum, equal pay.

This latest surfacing of the disrespect and discrimination women players receive in the sport is one in a series of recent disagreements between the USWNT and the USSF, as well as between the USWNT and FIFA itself. 

The USWNT and the USSF have battled over the validity of a current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), with the USWNT stating that it is invalid and can be terminated by the team, while the USSF maintains that it expires after the Olympics this summer. It became such a big issue that the USSF sued the USWNT because it thought the team would try to strike in order to force new CBA negotiations. Lawyer for the USWNT Jeffrey Kessler described the situation by saying that the USSF’s lawsuit was “an effort to keep in place the discriminatory and unfair treatment they have endured for years.” His statement encapsulates the current sentiments of the women players on their role in the sport and the USSF’s ongoing discrimination.

The USWNT also quarrelled with FIFA over playing on artificial turf at the World Cup, which caused numerous injuries. Additionally, the USWNT was angry over the pay they received from FIFA for their victory in the World Cup, amounting to $2 million divided among the players compared to the $35 million that the German Men’s National Team received for their 2014 World Cup victory.  Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter even insinuated that women teams should play in tighter shorts.

Yet, despite female players already being so vastly disrespected, the gender inequality has reached a new level in soccer when it comes to pay.

In response to the lawsuit, the USSF declared that it is “a world leader in promoting the women’s game and are proud of the long-standing commitment [it has] made to building women’s soccer in the United States and furthering opportunities in soccer for young women and girls around the world.”

That’s a nice thing to say, and likely partially true. For example, the USSF has invested $10 million in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) over a three year period starting in 2013 (albeit not a significant portion given the USSF’s yearly revenue). But any amount of work they do for women’s soccer does not justify paying women inequitably.

Let’s look at the facts to see if the USSF is right in saying that they are helping women and equality in the sport.

Fact: the USMNT will bring in a projected $9 million in revenue in the next year, while the USWNT will bring in $17.6 million.

Fact: the USSF’s 2015 financial records state that the women’s team generated $20 million more in revenue for the Federation than did the men’s team, but that the USWNT players are paid a base salary of only a quarter of what the USMNT players earn.

Fact: if the USMNT lost all 20 friendly (non-competitive) games in a season, each player would still earn a minimum of $100,000. If the USWNT won all 20 games, each player would earn only a maximum of $99,000 (including bonuses).

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Fact: for qualifying for the World Cup, the USMNT earns $2.5 million to be divided equally amongst the players, while the USWNT earns nothing.

Fact: for getting knocked out in the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup, the men earned $9 million in bonuses. The USWNT players earned $2 million in bonuses for winning the World Cup last year.

Fact: if the USMNT wins the World Cup, its players will get $400,000. If the USWNT wins the World Cup, each player will get only $75,000. 

Fact: the USWNT is clearly the more successful of the two US teams. It has won the World Cup three times, while the USMNT’s best place finish was third… in 1930. The USWNT has also won the Olympics four times and is indisputably the best team in women’s soccer.

Do any of these facts indicate equitable, or at the very least equal, pay for women? Shouldn’t the more successful team that brings in more direct revenue for the USSF and attention for US soccer get paid more? Are we still living in a society where women are discriminated against to such a degree that the organization that supposedly works for them is able to sue them for attempting to protect their collective bargaining rights?

Does gender equality not matter to us?
The USSF, all US soccer organizations, FIFA, and the sport as a whole need to reevaluate their stances on gender equality and pay equity—implementation of equal women’s rights in soccer is long overdue.

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